Neolithic carved stone found on beach

An ornately-carved stone, thought to date from the Neolithic period, was found on a South Ronaldsay beach last week.

The weathered stone, which may be around 5,000 years old, was found by St Margaret’s Hope resident, David Barnes, who was out walking by Sandwick Bay, in South Ronaldsay.

Mr Barnes described the find as a “miracle” after he spotted the stone in among the rocks on the shore.

The faint carving, “pecked” into a slab of sandstone, is difficult to see in direct light, but features two concentric circles – or possibly one concentric circle with a spiral surrounded by an oval. The designs are “classic megalithic art”, examples of which have been found elsewhere in Britain, Ireland and Europe. Locally, the design has parallels in the Pierowall Stone from Westray and the Eday Manse stone.

Although the exact meaning of the designs is unknown, it is generally thought they were sacred or religious symbols.

Frequently they are found close to contemporary burial monuments and the symbols are also found on portable stones placed directly next to burials or incorporated in burial mounds.

The Sandwick stone was found in an area known to have contained a chambered cairn as well as Bronze Age burial mounds and burnt mounds.

County archaeologist Julie Gibson added: “Although there are no structures visible near the spot where the stone was found, it seems likely that the stone may have formed part of a chambered cairn, or other structure, which was once below the eroding storm beach.”

The stone was removed from the beach and transferred to the Orkney Museum.

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